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The art and science of audience engagement: The Drum and YouTube roundtable

By Olivia Atkins, Writer

December 4, 2018 | 8 min read

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In today’s attention economy, views are no longer enough. The ability to capture audience attention, make valuable connections with that audience and transform attention into action is the key to advertising success. Nike did it with its Colin Kaepernick ad and Bodyform with #BloodNormal, both shifting brand perceptions and boosting sales.

The Drum and YouTube roundtable

The Drum and YouTube roundtable

YouTube’s recent series on the ‘Rules of Engagement’ looks at the various ways in which brands can meaningfully connect with audiences. The Drum breakfast roundtable, brought to you by YouTube, took those rules as a starting point for a group of industry experts to discuss issues around audience engagement and how understanding new behaviours, emotions and cultural moments can help brands better connect.

Be smart with targeting

When it comes to the art and science of audience engagement, what are the tools advertisers are using to help identify and target people beyond their profile or their demographic? For instance, how cleverly are marketers adapting their marketing strategies so that they are rooted in relevant data and signal a strong intent to buy?

For Giovanni Gribaudo, head of digital media at Iglo, the first question that brands should be asking is how to best define what intent is. “So how do you practice it and then create scale and reliability?” he asked. MGOMD executive director, head of strategy, Paddy Adams, agreed that the challenge is defining what purchase intent means to you and then finding the right data sets that signal that intent. He added that technology is enabling us to create detailed maps of a user’s search activity and to better predict what else they might be interested in or even how they are most likely to respond.


In fact, that’s when fun can begin, added St Luke’s planner, Lydia Jones, who stressed the need for creativity. “By advertising creatively,” she said, “it acts as a signal to audiences that there is confidence in a brand’s future.” Targeting as a strategy won’t suffice, it’s a tool that should be used in conjunction with other methods, she said.

Take a stand and inspire passion

As the ability to understand and predict people’s intentions and deliver content gets better, the need for brands to be more passionate and find their place within culture becomes just as critical.

No brand wants to repeat the fiasco that was Pepsi/Kendall Jenner. However, aligning with the cultural conversation in a way that seems authentic can be challenging. “When it does happen and it’s done well, it pays off. But audiences can always tell if it’s a fake effort,” said managing global partner, WPP lead at Ogilvy, Jai Kotecha. Gribaudo agreed: “Am I working on [something that will contribute to] culture or making the most of the PR opportunities that have come up?” He suggested that if brands are clever and culturally relevant, they can enjoy a legacy that lasts longer than the event itself.

Brainlabs’ CSO Grace Kaye said brands could plan better ahead of key moments and applauded the Skittles’ Super Bowl 2018 ad for its brave game-changing efforts. However, the challenge here, according to Digby Lewis, executive director at Iris, is that the ability of most brands to run at the speed of the internet is lacking and that is what brands believe they need to do when trying to take a stand and capitalise on cultural moments. Those moments when brands and trends intersect are not to be found on a calendar, he said.


“Can anyone recall a ‘Football’s coming home’ cultural moment that brands successfully nailed this year?” asked Yonder Media founder and managing director, Ed Cox. He said he could not remember a single brand that managed this and added that they would be better off crafting strategies that worked across the whole year than saying “let's do an Oreo, dunk in the dark.”

For brands that correctly capture those increasingly rare moments of collective engagement and also build in passion, it can create huge value. For Google head of creative agency relationships Ant Hill, it’s critical to focus on an event where your brand plays some role in consumers’ actions, such as Super Bowl or Christmas, but just as important for a brand to celebrate the values of your consumers. “If you were to ask individuals, their cultural moments could be ‘smaller’ for instance having a baby, getting married, moving house etc. So if you’re a broadband provider, you could have an ad campaign ready to roll when one of those cultural moments happens for your consumers. And that would resonate well.”

Crank up the volume

Real resonant moments are valuable because they provide a positive association for the consumers. The group said that when looking at how to connect and stir emotion, audio can be key to making content memorable.

It’s evocative and feeds the imagination, but audio remains woefully underused, lamented Jones.

Wavemaker video director Jon Appleby agreed that the potential of using audio to reach consumers in new ways is yet to be recognised by brands, perhaps because there are not as many digital touch-points around voice as there are with things like search and display. For him the “the bigger piece,” would always remain around effectiveness.


Gribaudo gave the example of how Iglo has recently revived the Birds Eye Potato Waffles’ jingle from the 80s — the popular ‘Waffly Versatile’. He said: “For a generation that wouldn't remember the catchy tune, we’ve just done a digital only version and have the evidence to prove that it’s working.” For the Birds Eye marketer, this is an example of how a culturally relevant campaign that uses audio as a tool to trigger specific emotions will work.

Read YouTube’s Rules of Engagement and visit their website to deep-dive even further.

  1. Be smart with targeting: Demographic targeting is often far from ideal, as not all buyers of a product or service will fit the presumed profile. Other targeting options are available on some platforms, but most rely on what people claim about themselves – which may or may not be accurate.Targeting on YouTube is different, because, as part of the broader Google ecosystem, the platform can use signals from real behaviour elsewhere online. These signals enable advertisers using YouTube to target based on people’s likely intent.
  2. Take a stand: Creating powerful brand experiences can be tough. It means picking a side and standing by it in a cultural landscape where social media outrage can be around every corner. But done right, it offers huge rewards through campaigns that are shared, debated and discussed far beyond the reach of traditional advertising.
  3. Inspire passion: Product placement isn’t enough in this era. Recognising and respecting people’s passion points creates impact for brands no matter the sector. It will encourage sharing, conversation and connection, all of which can pay enormous dividends in the long-term.
  4. Spend with precision: YouTube is the go-to place for smarter ad spending: it allows for experimentation, analysis and iteration at a relatively low cost, while providing granular feedback that can help shape long-term strategy.
  5. Crank up the volume: YouTube viewers are primed for audio – because they’ve arrived wanting to watch video, they’re more likely to be listening. They’re also more likely to be watching. According to Google Internal Data, Global, August 2016 (when volume is at least 10% for YouTube ads) 95% of YouTube ads are audible, and the same number are viewable, compared to just 66% across the rest of the web and apps.

Read more about YouTube’s Rules of Engagement for online video here.

Download your copy of Turning Attention into Effectiveness Guide .

Read YouTube’s Rules of Engagement and visit their website to deep-dive even further.

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